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Andrea K Höst

Australian writer of science fiction and fantasy.

Have Space Suit - Will Travel

Have Space Suit—Will Travel - Robert A. Heinlein There's considerable charm in the opening of this book, and it's likely to entertain kids and adults as the story follows small-town boy Kip on his quest to reach the moon. Kip has little money, few connections, and the odds seem against him, but his methodical determination sees him entering competitions, and then repairing a decommissioned space suit. This section of HSS-WT is, I think, the best part of the story. Who can't connect with the idea of having big dreams and scant chance to fulfil them? The story is set in the near-future, with a space station and moon base, but faces all the limitations which make star travel both expensive and unlikely. Heinlein nicely balances scientific discussion with story as Kip repairs his space suit, and leaves the reader thinking: these are things worth knowing.The story then kick-starts into a fast-paced and dramatic space adventure, which is still entertaining, though a rather different sort of story, and leads up to a not uncommon SF plotline that of aliens judging humanity worthy – or not – of living. It's a satisfying enough ending.Kip is the usual sort of Heinlein hero – intelligent, modest, honest, and stuffed full of lessons on the importance of self-reliance (though occasionally inclined to jump to conclusions, not to mention making the worst "save the race" speech ever). He encounters Peewee, a precocious eleven year-old girl genius, described by her father as "an amoral little wretch". Peewee was "poking around where I shouldn't, doing things they told us not to do" and got caught up in something important. Though probably wearying to actually be around, she's definitely a highlight of the book.It's not uncommon for Heinlein to write exceptional women (ie. women who are vastly superior to other women, 99.99% of whom are complete idiots). Among his alien races, the females are, as often as not, depicted as active movers in their societies – leaders and scientists. [Though even the alien female in this book – a kind of intergalactic policewoman – is given the name "Mother Thing", and is valued primarily for showering everyone she comes across with lashings of mother love.]Among human women, there are various varieties of idiots, and exceptional women who grow up to marry exceptional men, whereupon their brains dribble out of their ears.There are three human females and one alien female given time in this book. Kip and Peewee's fathers are genius scientists. Their mothers are the people who make dinner, say things like "Don't bother your father", exclaim in disbelief at adventures, or are simply quietly supportive. Kip spends a lot of time discussing his father's intelligence, eccentricity, and the powerful role he played in shaping Kip. His mother is described thus:I have talked more about my father, but that doesn't mean that Mother is less important – just different. Dad is active. Mother is passive ; Dad talks, Mother doesn't. But if she died, Dad would wither like an uprooted tree. She makes our world.Now, on a general level this is no big deal – that's just his Mother's personality. Until you get to the end of the book and discover that Kip's Mother – that passive, silent woman who has been shown doing nothing much beyond 'mothering' – was once his genius mathematician father's star pupil.Exceptional women in Heinlein's books all too often exist to provide a suitable mate for Heinlein's exceptional men. It's clearly indicated in the text that Peewee is likely to grow up and marry Kip and one shudders to think of Peewee – precocious, amoral, adventurous child! – condemned to have her brain dribble out of her ear.